Thursday, July 16, 2015

Five tips I'm taking from staging

When we got our house ready to sell we had to get things in order.  That meant clearing out the clutter and really trying to scale back.  In some ways it was bad (I really miss the kids playspace) but in lots of other ways it's been really good.

Here are 5 things I'll continue to do when we finally find our next house...

1. Keep cooking things off the counter. 

This isn't my counter top, (thanks gcmenezes) but it might as well have been.  We kept olive oil, salt, pepper, random spices, vinegar, etc. all on the countertop right next to the stove.  So when we were getting ready to sell all those things had to move up to to the shelf above.

This is my kitchen:

Enter the bright and sparkly, and not cluttered, countertop.  See those hanging shelves down from the upper cabinet?  Those were where my spices are.  Despite these clever storage units there was still a TON of stuff where those flowers are.  Needless to say, my realtor was not a fan- she made me clean it up.  I thought it would really drive me nuts, but it dosen't.  I just put everything in that cabinet above the countertop and put it away when I'm done.  It means a nicer workspace for all of us.

2. Put it away, immediately

I know we've heard this before, but living in a house where at any moment you could get a call from your realtor about someone wanting to stop by really drives the message home.  I wouldn't wish that stress on anyone, but it really puts it in perspective about how the little things (like really finishing a project, or only doing the things you really have time for) can impact your feelings about the house.  With things neat and tidy I had more time to spend scrapbooking, and making messes that I knew

3. Get rid of it.

A huge piece to staging is clearing out the clutter.  From piles of papers to anything else.  It's totally liberating to realize how little stuff you need.  Yes, there are things that I was missing in my life, but honestly, those things are fewer than I thought they might be.  There are tons of things that we just don't need but we own anyways.  And no, I'm not talking about Halloween decor or Maternity clothes, I'm talking about the 6 different random coffee mugs, or the cards from college that you really don't need to be hanging on to.  When you are packing, and prepping the house for sale you realize all the things you just don't need.

4. Toy Rotation/Less Toys

I've always been a fan of this idea, but it wasn't until my kiddos were living with less than a quarter of their toys, both at home most days, and still doing totally fine that I realized my kids are inundated with toys.  We had a whole playspace full of them, in addition to whats here in these photos, and they don't really miss a them almost ever.  Sure there are items they do miss (guitar anyone...?) but over the long haul it's been totally fine.  Paper, a few crayons, playdough and bubbles have kept us happy since EG stopped school in mid-June.

5. Mementos and photos make a house a home

This has been the easiest lesson to learn.  Without the things that make us who we are, it's a sad place to be in.  A house is more than a house- it's a home to you and your stuff.They moved a lot of our photos, and living without touching anything makes it a really stressful way to live.  So bake that bread, hang up that photo, and enjoy living in your home.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Jewish Tooth Fairy

I can't believe that I'm writing this, I can't believe that I have a need to figure this out right now.  But I do...

This past weekend while EG was in the loving care of my happy sister-in-law she had an incident.  She jumped off the slide and, in doing so, hit her chin with her knee.  Out popped one of her front teeth.  Thank goodness my SIL & BIL are kind and patient people, who took good care of EG.  She got ice cream, tylenol and a good old fashioned helping of Elsa and Anna. The girl couldn't have been happier.  Mommy however, absolutely devastated.

It's so so so so so hard to have something bad happen to your child.  Add to that the angst of not being there to do something about it. Nothing could be worse for a mother.

And so, here I find myself, debating the merits of the Tooth Fairy.  I took the time to poll just about everyone at Comic-Con what to say.  A few of my favorite responses:

"We got letters telling us our teeth were going to needy babies.  If we didn't brush well enough then she couldn't use our teeth.  I remember once giving a tooth, but not getting any money because she told me my teeth weren't clean enough"

"We had a tooth fairy, but I'm pretty sure I knew a day after she was introduced that she wasn't real."

Of course there were lots of people who didn't have that many memories, or really just didn't care one way or the other.

In my family we each had a different tooth fairy.  While there weren't any letters, etc, my Dad did spin great stories about our tooth fairies.  They were real people, and I honestly don't ever remember being upset about knowing they were fictional.  I don't remember that moment when I found out it was all a lie.

Since EG is so young, it's not like she's inundated at school with inquiries about the tooth fairy. Unlike Santa it's not like there is an army of Tooth Fairies coming out at the same time each year.  I asked my SIL if her kiddos mentioned it, just so I could see if the die had been cast.  She said her kids did mention it, but there has been no mention of it from EG at all.

I'm not sure about having a ceremony for the whole thing, but I did want to mark the occasion somehow.  EG, she wanted me to throw the tooth in the trash.  I wonder if she will remember that thought when I show her the album that has the tooth in later years..?

Turns out that Jewish kids are a step ahead in not believing the fantasies of childhood.  (I didn't access the whole article) Or maybe a step behind if you think about it that way.  There is something magical about having these characters as part of childhood- the idea behind them.  But there is also something sad about telling our children such lies.

I think I like this take on it best, which shows that sometimes even when you've answered your child directly, they don't really take these thoughts to heart as much as we think they do.  How often does EG forget what she's had for dinner, let alone the million of things I say in a day.

I did really like the idea of having a tooth fairy to help teach and learn about flossing, brushing, etc.  The girl at the Convention (yes you phone stealer and photo snapper!) whos parents told her the teeth are used for babies certainly had good motivation for keeping her teeth clean.  And for EG getting her to brush was a nightmare.   If I can have years of good teeth maintenance for the price of $.25 a tooth then I think I'm totally up for that....

This Rabbi is convinced that it doesn't really matter, and I think I agree with him.  He's kind in saying that it's not a lie, really, it's the same thing as running away from the dinosaur under the bed.  But his insistence on not paying kids for doing nothing...?  That one dosen't sit well with me.  As a commenter points out, there is a lot of work towards keeping your teeth healthy.

I think the ending news is that we've done nothing.  She didn't see the dentist until today, and for some reason I wanted to show her the tooth.  And EG isn't interested in putting it under her pillow- as I mentioned, she wants it in the trash.

We did say the Shehecyanu prayer, which we've been saying a lot lately.  I thought it was a good way to mark the occasion.  And it was so funny when we were going to my Dad's house (Grambe) that she told us that no one was supposed to tell him.  "No one.  Shhh"

For now I'll just have my holey grin cutie.  We'll really worry about the Tooth Fairy if/when she looses another tooth and asks about it.

Do you have the tooth fairy?  Any advice?

Friday, July 10, 2015

G-d Bless In-laws

I'm witing this post on the amtrak train to San Diego's comic con.  Yup, I go to comic-con.  But the reason behind the post is because my children aren't with me.  They are with my in laws.

For the first time in forever my baby Ocho is spending the night without me.  I'm overwhelmed with nerves.  But this isn't really about Ocho, it's about EG and the fact that she wants to celebrate shabbat with her cousins...her Christian cousins.  And my wonderful sister in law are going to do it for her.

When EG first asked about shabbat I was a bit out of sorts because this was the first time I've had to tell her that her cousins don't celebrate shabbat like we do.  I never really hid this fact, but we are celebrating people who do Easter and Christmas with them and yet it doesn't really come up that they are different.  Until now.

So I talked with my sister in law and she said she was happy to share shabbat
with EG.   Next I googled 'jewish child celebrating shabbat with non-jewish inlaws'.  And least nothing good.

I'm amazed at how apparently infrequently families move beyond their comfort zones to make others happy.  There were some scary things that people talked about using that search criteria...

So here's to inclusive families. And the fact that shabbat is easy to do at home without much fuss.  

Is your child staying somewhere and wants to do shabbat?  Here are the easy directions and prayers to send along.

1.  Send along at least two candles, though in families with kids I prefer to do one candle per person.  That way everyone feels represented and included.

2. Send some challah.  This is likely the only thing that someone wouldn't have that they would need.  Plus it's nice to send bread anyways... just a lovely hand-made hostess gift.

3. Remove the stress and prep your child.  It's so important to have a conversation with the hosts about how the essence of the holiday is enjoyment, relaxation and rest.  It shouldn't be something that's hard, it should be fun.  By the same token, prep your child.  It's likely that you lead shabbat at home and here it will be up to your child to take a larger role.  Afditionally it won't be like shabbat at home is, it will be different.

4.  Send these easy instructions:

Shabbat at home:
Candle Prayer:
Transliteration: Baruch a-ta Adonoi Elo-hei-nu  me-lech. ha-o-lam.  a-sher  ki-di-sha-nu. bi-mitz-vo-tav. vi-tzi-va-noo. li-had-leek. ner shel Shabbat.

*light candles first then say prayers.  It's typical to cover your eyes as well.

Prayer over children
May God Bless you and guard you. May the light of God shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the presence of God be with you and give you peace.

*this is usually said while holding your hands on the heads of your children.

Prayer over wine.  Baruch Ata Adonoi Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam borei porei hagafen. 

*Any wine, or grape juice, will do.  

Prayer over challah:  Baruch Ata Adonoi Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha olam hamotzi lechem  min ha aretz.  

*It's tradition to put some salt to remember the temple, and honey for a good sweet shabbat.

Here's to a good shabbat, and a restful one for you and everyone.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Women Power Parsha

Have you read this weeks Parsha?    As a mother of daughter's this is one of those parsha's that don't seem to be discussed very much, but has a profound impact upon the rights of women everywhere.  Chapter 27 is when the four righteous daughters of  Zelophehad stand up for their rights of inheritance and it's shown that sons and daughters have equal rights to what was their fathers.

Chapter 27

1The daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph, came forward, and his daughters' names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. אוַתִּקְרַבְנָה בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד בֶּן חֵפֶר בֶּן גִּלְעָד בֶּן מָכִיר בֶּן מְנַשֶּׁה לְמִשְׁפְּחֹת מְנַשֶּׁה בֶן יוֹסֵף וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֹתָיו מַחְלָה נֹעָה וְחָגְלָה וּמִלְכָּה וְתִרְצָה:
2They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the kohen and before the chieftains and the entire congregation at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, saying, בוַתַּעֲמֹדְנָה לִפְנֵי משֶׁה וְלִפְנֵי אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְלִפְנֵי הַנְּשִׂיאִם וְכָל הָעֵדָה פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר:
3"Our father died in the desert, but he was not in the assembly that banded together against the Lord in Korah's assembly, but he died for his own sin, and he had no sons. גאָבִינוּ מֵת בַּמִּדְבָּר וְהוּא לֹא הָיָה בְּתוֹךְ הָעֵדָה הַנּוֹעָדִים עַל יְהֹוָה בַּעֲדַת קֹרַח כִּי בְחֶטְאוֹ מֵת וּבָנִים לֹא הָיוּ לוֹ:
4Why should our father's name be eliminated from his family because he had no son? Give us a portion along with our father's brothers. " דלָמָּה יִגָּרַע שֵׁם אָבִינוּ מִתּוֹךְ מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ כִּי אֵין לוֹ בֵּן תְּנָה לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אָבִינוּ:
5So Moses brought their case before the Lord. הוַיַּקְרֵב משֶׁה אֶת מִשְׁפָּטָן לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה:

Now I'm not saying that everything is roses here.  The text goes on to say that if a man has no sons then his daughters inherit, but if he has no daughters than his brothers (not sisters) get it.  If not a brother than his uncles (not Aunts) and so on.  But I'm still going to chalk this up to a victory for women everywhere.  

This is big news.  That these five sisters banded together to come to Moses and Eleazar (not to mention the entire congregation of the meeting) and say before all that they believed they were entitled to something.  Not just something, but everything.  They didn't want to share the inheritance with their Uncles, they stood up for themselves, and women and daughters everywhere, to get what was their due.

Now I'm not going to go into the legalistic quibbles about whether these women had to marry their cousins in order to inherit (which is probably true, since we talk about that a few pages later.)  It's a moralistic quandry to be sure, but not the message I'm trying to relate.

All to often I'm talking with EG about speaking up, getting across her point and using her words.  Here five women stood amongst men to claim what was theirs.  And rightfully so.

Additionally these are five sisters (shout out to H5!) who have eachother's backs.  Imagine what would have happened if four had stood together.  That means they are really all standing apart. 

There is a special bond between sisters (love you Becca!) and I want EG to embrace that bond with Ocho.  There will be many moments of difficulty, but this torah story illustrates that it's possible to stand-up to speak up and to stand together as one.  

Now EG and Ocho aren't quite ready for this story, but I think this YouTube video sums the parsha up fairly well, and puts the focus where I think it should be- the victory of women's rights and the idea of speaking up for your self.

Monday, July 6, 2015

5 things your 3-year old can (and should) do

Now that EG is three I've really ramped up my expectations for her.  Yup, yesterday she could skate on by in life, but today is the start of all the doldrums of life.  Like chores and responsibility... hehe...

1. Setting the table.  All children can help to set the table.  At the beginning it might be something as easy as napkins- no one can break a napkin!  But I'd throw the idea out there that a three year old is capable of doing napkins, silverware (yes, even butter knives for mommy and daddy) as well as their own plate.  It's possible that your three year old could handle bringing the nice plates to the table too!

2. Cleaning up after a meal.  At the very very least your three-year-old can clean up their own place.  That means taking their plate into the sink or the counter, getting their silverware where it needs to go, etc.  Throwing their napkin or yogurt cup into the trash can.  I would go so far as to add that most three-year-olds can help clear a baby sisters plate too.

3. Clean-up after themselves.  This is a wide range of things.  From putting their laundry in the laundry basket, hanging up their own backpack and coat, and cleaning up that milk they spill all over the floor. They are way more capable than we sometimes give them credit for.  Of course, using chemicals is still out of the game (aka, you still need to get out the cleaner when they pee on the floor yet again) but they can get the paper towels just the same.

4. Carrying their own things.  This applies to their backpack and lunch to/from school or daycare.  Their own jacket out to the car.  There is no reason for you to be a pack mule to your preschooler anymore.  If you get in the habit now by the time they hit regular school you can only worry about your own latte (and their younger siblings!)

5.  Packing their own things.  This one is a bit tricky.  It's not like your three-year-old can really guage what the right amount of underwear is for a 3 day trip (I'm going with at least 6 pairs), but they can help make sure that they have everything they need.  Their lovey- make sure they grab it.  Their special blanket- again on them.  Of course you have to pack the essentials like toothpaste and sunscreen, but they can certainly help pick things out and remember them too.  When EG tells me that we forgot something or asks me where something she thinks she needs is I'm fond of saying "well did you bring/remember/pack it?"  This one helps drive that message home that they can be responsible too!

Not all three-year-olds are ready for all these items at once.  Or maybe you are totally ahead of the curve and doing all of these things since your tiny baby was just 2 years old.  If so, then here are a few bonus things for you...

6. Helping cook food.  Most preschoolers can crack eggs, mix and dump things, and many are ready to help stir on the stove top.  Invest in a good stool  (I love the solid wood one from Ikea) and let them get to it. It's so great to have help at dinner time, rather than someone just constantly complaining about when dinner will be ready.   EG loves to help spread sauce, and cut things with her own Ikea plastic knife.  We've even been known to let her use a more dull metal knife on occasion.

7. Make the bed.  This might seem a bit irrelevant, but I think it's an important thing to be doing.  It really changes the make-up of a room and puts everyone on the right step from the beginning.  I help EG make her bed in the mornings, and if I'm honest we don't always get to it after naptime...  Of course, you could think like Eloise and have them make your bed...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Judaism on Turning Three

There is a little known celebration in Judaism for when a child turns three.  No, let me correct that, for when a boy turns three. (yes, there is more to that, yes I'll get to it.) 

There is a statement in the Talmud that compares men to trees, and according to the Torah (commandment 'orlah') you aren't supposed to take fruit or cut a tree until it's third season.  So, since boys are like trees, we don't cut a boys hair until he turns three.

Seems simple, at least when you look up the term Upershin, it seems like a simple little haircut. 

But the reality is so much more...

I went to my first Upershin this past week.  It was absolutely stunning.  The decor, the atmosphere, the celebration.  I love the people who's son we were celebrating.  I have nothing but goodwill and heart-felt congratulations for them.  But I have a lot of problems with an upershin.  And no, none of them have to do with the hair.

The thing they don't really convey with all of their definitions of haircutting is the underlying premise of the whole exercise.  A child's change from being an observer of mitzvot to beginning to learn mitzvot and be responsible for creating good in the world.

Go back and read that again.  Yup.  That's the ticket.  This is what we're really celebrating at an upershin.  It goes way beyond a boy wearing a kippah and tzitzit.  This boy is going to start his formal education in Judaism and start to learn what he needs to know to be a Jewish adult.  Because remember, we only have until he's 13 to teach him everything he needs to know on that score.  We are taking him education in hand today, and starting to impress upon him the gloriousness that is Judaism and Torah.

So let's get back to the real issue.  Why is this only for boys?

It just so happens that an Upershin would be perfect for EG.  My darling daughter hasn't had her hair cut since she's been born.  We have been telling her since she's started asking that she gets her hair cut at three.  Why three you ask- Working Dad just picked that number  at random.  Coincidence?

There is another theory out there about why we wait until three to cut a boys hair.  Again starting at commandment 'orlah' but branching out in a totally different direction.  The Torah is the Tree of Life, and since we are commanded not to partake of the fruits of a tree for the first three years of growth, so it would go that in the first three years of our lives the lessons of the Torah, or the 'fruits of the Tree of Life', is off limits to us.  Torah isn't always easy.  It's not like reading Spot.  At age three, the theory is, our understanding has developed enough to begin learning Torah.  We finally get a taste of the fruit from the 'Tree of Life.'

At the upershin it's customary to have the child start his Torah study right there- usually with a Hebrew alphabet covered in honey.  It's a celebration of the start of an obligation.  That's right, a celebration of an obligation.  On Sunday he didn't need to wear tzitzit, but on Monday he does.  And by celebrating it in this way it makes it something joyous to do, not a negative association.

Now I would be amiss if I didn't point out that there's a tradition that a girl starts lighting candles when she turns three, but somehow the impact of lighting candles and what happens at an upsherin are vastly different.  It's also cloaked in halachic confusion, and also intensely clear that even if you support her lighting the candle her candle cannot count for the obligation to perform the mitzvot.

It all comes down to how we teach our girls what it means to be Jewish at our earliest opportunities.   Singing songs about Ama lighting candles and Abba going to shul; Challah-making for girls, Torah study for boys.

I don't want EG or Ocho to think that Torah isn't sweet.  I want them to have the fruits of the Torah as well.  I want both of my girls to delight in baking challah, learning Talmud, questioning tradition and talking to G-d.  I want all the opportunities of a Jewish life to come easily to them both.  

I could only find one other account of a Jewish girls Upsherin.  While we won't be having her haircut be part of this ritual, I'm determined to celebrate my daughter's transition from babyhood to childhood.  I'm determined to find the spirit in the Upershin and bring it out in EG. 

Here's to a haircut!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

One Smart Cookie

I'm constantly amazed by EG.  Yesterday she was desperate to watch Frozen.  But Mommy kept telling her that it was such a nice day outside that it wasn't time for a movie.  So what did EG diecde to do....?

Around 4pm I put Ocho down for her second nap.  Both EG and I ran into my room to look at Ocho on her baby monitor.  Eg spotted my teddy bear on the bed, and immediately started getting excited that our teddies could be friends. 

"Mommy- our teddies are sisters.  No, yours is the mommy, look it's bigger than mine.  Hold your teddy Mommy."

Fast forward five minutes to...

"Mommy, you don't feel well.  That's why you need your teddy.  I'll get my doctoring stuff."

Eg runs around the house gathering assorted doctoring materials from her bedroom. 

"Mommy- I check your ears.  It takes a long time.  Then we check your temperature.  You have a fever.  You need to stay in bed.  I'll call the doctor"

"But EG, I thought you were the doctor."

"No Mommy, I'm the nurse, I take care of you."

She runs away, then comes back about 3 minutes later.  I'm thinking I've got it made- naptime for Mommy too?!

"Mommy, the doctor is coming.  But we need to make you feel better.  I'll brush your hair."

She brings two dolly hairbrushes and my de-tangling spray from the bathroom.

"Here Mommy.  This will make you better.  I'll go get your bottle."

Oh, I'm thinking, I'm a baby now.  That's okay, babies get to sleep too.

"Mommy, you need to get your bear and come to the couch.  We have to put on Ana and Elsa, they will make you feel better.  The doctor told me it would make you feel better while we wait for him.  HeThe boy doctor and the girl doctor are coming after dinner.  I'm the nurse, I'll take care of you."

Wow- what just happened?  Is this what she thinks makes her feel better when she's sick.  How are we know watching Elsa and Ana?  OMG- I just got PLAYED!

I'm trying so hard to figure out why she thinks she's not the doctor (cue nervous mom who thinks that her daughter dosen't have high enough ambitions, or enough science, etc.) but what's really going on here- a ploy for Frozen.

But don't worry, when we were watching it she made sure to tell me that the doctor was on the way, and that I shouldn't be scared because she was here for me.

Wow EG- you are one smart girlie!

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